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The Prisoner Pear: Stories from the Lakeby Elissa Minor Rust
I don't often read short stories, but Elissa Minor Rust's debut arrived on my desk last week with a yellow sticky note proclaiming, "Local author!" Why not, I figured — and what do you know, I've been returning for another story or two almost every day since. Sometimes fabulist (in "Vital Organs," a woman stuns doctors when her kidneys mysteriously disappear; in "Moon over Water," the full moon over Portland refuses to ebb, leading soon enough to a mass exodus of the city's population) and at other times achingly real (one word: relationships), The Prisoner Pear deserves a national readership, Lake Oswego settings be damned.
Synopses & Reviews
These stories take place in an upscale suburb of Portland, Oregon, and explore what the American dream means to twenty-first-century suburbanites. In a city where the homecoming queen still makes the front page of the weekly newspaper, ducks caught in storm drains and stolen campaign signs make up the bulk of the crime reports in the paper's police blotter. Underneath, though, are complexities that rival those of Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio.
Each of the stories begins with an entry from the newspaper's police blotter. Elissa Minor Rust fills in the background to these small, odd events — a headless parakeet found in mailbox, a nude jogger, an alarmingly deathlike discarded teddy bear. Her stories, both humorous and disturbing, dive beneath the clear, hard surface of a community into the murky complexities that swirl beneath. The lake at the center of town is a constant in the lives of this town's people, and it appears and reappears throughout the book as a symbol of wealth and power, of love and loss.
The Prisoner Pear offers a rare look inside the heart of middle- and upper-class suburbia. Reading these stories is, as one character observes, "...like seeing the town from the inside out, as if the lake was its heart and the rest merely its bones and skin."
"In 12 efficient, accomplished stories inspired by snippets from the Lake Oswego, Ore., police blotter, Rust takes a magnifying glass to affluent suburban life in the Pacific Northwest. In the title story, a young UPS manager looks for signs that he should propose to his rich girlfriend while battling a case of cold feet and class anxiety. A blotter item about two high school girls thought to be prostitutes (in fact, they're just standing on a corner, waiting for a cab) blossoms into a perceptive and moving story about best friends united — and ultimately divided — by their severe eating disorders. Economics drive a young father to enroll himself in risky medical experiments in 'Rich Girls'; in 'Of All the Insatiable Human Urges,' a 36-year-old woman discovers she's pregnant shortly after learning that her 49-year-old husband is dying of prostate cancer; and in 'Moon over Water,' an unnatural sequence of full moons wreaks havoc in the Portland area. Solid, believable characters rendered in careful, deliberate prose move against a convincing landscape of lakeside cottages and sprawling McMansions, grocery store aisles and shopping malls, bedrooms and doctors' offices. This is a fine portrait of privileged lives, in all their mundanity and weirdness." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Rust adds to the overall sense of absurdity by introducing each tale with a snippet from a local police blotter. Thoughtful, surprising fiction." Kirkus Reviews
"Imagination takes flight in these 12 stories set in Lake Oswego, an affluent suburb of Portland, Oregon....Rust's prose is crisp and precise." Booklist
"A dust-jacket blurb...calls her prose 'as lucid as the lake,'....Rather, it's the collection's themes that most resemble the formerly pristine private waters, now murky and contentious, at the heart of a picture-perfect community avoiding its own reflection." Portland Oregonian
These stories take place in an upscale suburb of Portland, Oregon, but they could be taken from any number of similar enclaves across the United States. Each of the stories begins with an entry from the newspaper's police blotter. Elissa Minor Rust fills in the background to these small, odd events — a headless parakeet found in mailbox, a nude jogger, an alarmingly deathlike discarded teddy bear. Her stories, both humorous and disturbing, dive beneath the clear, hard surface of a community into the murky complexities that swirl beneath.
About the Author
Elissa Minor Rust has published fiction in Baltimore Review, Orchid: A Literary Review, Beacon Street Review, and Honolulu Magazine, among others. She lives in Lake Oswego, Oregon.
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